Wareable big test: 5 Sleep trackers go head-to-head

We get some shut eye with a bunch of sleep monitors to see which is the best
Big test: Sleep trackers rated

Brain a little frazzled, tired by the afternoon, memory not quite doing the job it used to…? Getting a good night's sleep is as much about quality as it is quantity, and these devices are supposedly the best in the field at analysing your sleep patterns.

The main difference between these trackers is the amount of contact they require with your body to get the data they need. Their next most important feature is whether they have the smarts to make the most of that information to feed you back something that's meaningful – something you can actually use to improve the quality of your sleep.

Essential reading: The best fitness trackers to buy

We took them all to bed, all at the same time for quite a few weeks. We tossed and turned with them, we dreamed with them, we went out late and crashed out with them. Some are perfect partners and some have since got the elbow. Wareable recommends as follows…

Jawbone UP3 - 5th place

The Jawbone UP3 is one of two wrist-based, non-specialist sleep trackers here and, sadly, the one best avoided if sleep monitoring is your prime reason for purchase. It has one trick up its sleeve, and that's that it can measure your heart rate while you're asleep – one of the key metrics of REM and the other stages of slumber.

Read this: Sleep monitors explained

Sadly, though, its readings were way off and this was easily the least reliable of the bunch. It was late to register when we'd dropped off and it didn't notice our series of post-waking snoozes in the morning either.

On top of that, there's nothing from the Jawbone in the way of helping you get to sleep. There are no sleep sounds, no attempts to de-stress you and nothing about measuring your environment. Perhaps the only real positives we can offer about the UP3 are that the app experience is quite nice and that the data is, perhaps, at least a rough overview of your night-time habits.

There's also plenty of potential here. The sensors are there but it might take quite a few updates behind the scenes before Jawbone's boffins figure out a way of building some more intelligent algorithms to understand what's going on.

Features: 2/5

Sleep monitoring: 2/5

$129.99, jawbone.com | Amazon

Misfit Ray - 4th place

Misfit once led the charge as the wearable with the best sense for sleep, but its high style fitness tracker was no match for the big boy devices in this test.

It was excellent at figuring out the beginning and end of our shuteye – pretty much down to the second – and we have little doubt about its differentiation between the light and deep sections of our cycles, but it doesn't offer any
REM tracking, nor did it pick up on those moments through the night when we awoke. That renders its feature set fairly limited, means that there's little in the way of sleep coaching and so there aren't many inferences you can draw about the quality of your kip.

On the plus side, the Misfit Ray does bring a compelling selection of eight sleep sounds to send you off into the land of nod – we particularly liked Night Forest, though the rhythmic repetition of one of the bird sounds did begin to feel like some kind of jungle telephone. The sounds don't automatically shut off once the Ray senses you're asleep, but you can set it to play for either 30 mins, one hour, two hours or, indeed, all night. It also has a smart alarm – as did all of the monitors in this test – although we wouldn't recommend using them.

Obviously, the advantages of a wrist-worn tracker like the Ray are that it does all sorts of other exciting things aside from monitoring sleep. The Misfit app is excellent and it puts your sleep score nicely in context with the rest of your health and fitness lifestyle. But, if it's sleep tracking that you're most interested in, then you're barking up the wrong tree with the Ray. Misfit's Beddit is a better option in that case. You can take a look at our Beddit review.

Features: 2/5

Accuracy: 5/5

$99.99, misfit.com | Amazon

Sense - Bronze medal

This thing just looks great. You'd have it as a delicate, sleep-inducing little object d'art even if the technical side of it packed up and stopped working. It's the smallest of the three bedside units and still contains a speaker good enough to trump the one in your mobile phone. What's more, Sense has the best selection of sleep sounds in the group. There's all the whale song-type business plus a really healthy collection of natural audio such as river streams, oceans, crackling campfires, rain and some white noise too.

Read this: Sense sleep tracker review

Sense's big sell is that it's all about your sleep environment, but the truth is that most bedside sleep trackers monitor the light, heat, humidity and noise levels in your room at night anyway. Sense makes a bit more of a show of it by lighting up in certain colours when you go to bed or when you hover your hand over it.

Sense's point of contact with your sleep itself is a little button, which they call the Pill, that you clip onto your pillow. You can also get a second one to work with the main unit if you're lucky/unlucky enough to share a bed with another human on a regular basis.

This is all very nice in theory – but unfortunately the data you get from Sense isn't that good. There are no guestimates around REM sleep – which is honest, at least – but we found that the recordings of sleep onset and such were also off. And while the app and platform are good to use, there isn't really the same level of info you get on the others. The coaching is okay, but it's a bit generalised. At the end of the day, Sense fits really well in your home and is great for getting you to sleep but, after that, it rather drops off.

Features: 4/5

Accuracy: 3/5

$129, hello.com | Amazon

S+ by ResMed - Silver medal

Physical design is one of the biggest reasons not to buy the S+ by ResMed. It doesn't look too bad, but it's a biggie and that makes it a real bedside table hog. It was about the size of our lamp and it was bigger than a clock while providing none of the services of either. It also made reaching for a glass of water at night a bit of a pig.

On a more positive note, though, the S+ tracks your sleep without ever having to touch you. It uses sonar, and those ultrasonic pulses can see straight through your duvet and pyjamas to monitor the movement of your chest as your breathe your way through the different stages of sleep. Clever stuff indeed. Cleverer still, S+ can use your respiratory rhythm to match the tempo of the music it plays you while it lulls you to sleep. The selection of said music is pretty good, if a little bit on the new age hippy side of things, but the downer is that it uses your phone to play it rather than a speaker in the S+ itself. So, audio quality is worse and it's possibly less convenient than the others on test here.

Accuracy is top notch with S+ but what really sets it apart is the sleep coaching system known as S+ Mentor. Before you turn the lights out each evening, it presents you with a few questions to gauge for caffeine and alcohol intakes as well as your stress levels. There's even something called Mind Clear which attempts to relieve you of your anxiety – sleep's greatest enemy – by getting you to record what ails you. This means you get a really rich data set that you can use to track, say, the effect of booze on your deep sleep or caffeine on your onset of sleep, and that can be very valuable in terms of making actual, measurable improvements to your wellbeing.

If that all sounds like a bit too much scientific work, then don't worry because S+ Mentor will also send you push notifications on how to make sure you're operating at your best. These aren't necessarily daily but once or twice we were encouraged to avoid caffeine on a certain day or to get to bed early because we missed out on some REM sleep the night before. The S+ has its faults but it might be the most effective of the group.

Features: 4/5

Accuracy: 5/5

$80, sleep.mysplus.com | Amazon

Withings Aura - Gold medal

All hail the king of kip! The Withings Aura is the complete package. It's not the very best in every area but there are no real holes in what it offers, and, as the most expensive of the lot, we should hope so too.

It's an even bigger unit than the S+ but that's not such a problem because, with a built-in clock display, light and wireless speaker, which connects to both Spotify and internet radio stations, you can safely use it to replace just about every other item that's currently on your bedside table.

It's not the prettiest thing in the world, but that all changes once you start one of its sleep programs. The Aura lights up in a lovely colourful shade which is designed to stimulate the production of the sleep hormone, melatonin – and it certainly did the trick for us. You also get some reasonable sleep sounds, but they're not quite on the same scale as the Sense and there are only four or five different ones to choose from.

Touch sensitive controls on the side and top of the device mean you can change the lighting and volume levels as you see fit rather than having to fumble around for your phone, and that certainly feels like a classy touch.

Most importantly, Aura is the best of the bunch at actually tracking your sleep. It's very accurate. You don't need to tell it when you're heading to bed and when you've woken up. Thanks to the Sleep Sensor accessory, which sits between your mattress and the bed frame, Aura can detect your heart rate as well as your breathing and that gives it an excellent idea which stage of sleep you're in.

It was right about when we were dreaming, it knew when we were lying in bed but not actually asleep and it was all too aware of our absence in the small hours when our three-year-old declared he was 'finished' at the top of his voice having gone to the toilet on his own.

The only gripes we have with the Aura are the Withings app, which we found a little busy, and the sleep coaching, which was also a bit thin. Where we'd like to have customised advice on what we should or shouldn't be doing, what you actually seem to get is a selection of what the system feels are appropriate sleep articles to read, which, ultimately, we didn't.

Features: 5/5

Accuracy: 5/5

$299.95, withings.com | Amazon

Wareable verdict

First and second place rather depend on what you're after. Objectively speaking, the Aura is the better rounded piece of kit. It sends you to sleep, it fits better into your home and it's dead-on accurate every single time. Personally, though, we got the feeling that S+ by ResMed was going to be more helpful for us in the long run and would probably be responsible for the most significant changes in our lifestyle. So if you want to change your sleep habits rather than just monitor them, you might want to go with S+.

The rest of the group were a long way behind. The Sense is a lovely piece of kit and was best for getting us to sleep, but the tracking is way off. The Misfit Ray's sleep monitor is a very worthy addition to very good life tracker but it's not going to solve any night-time issues you might have. And as for the Jawbone UP3, well, 'pinch of salt' is the phrase to bear in mind. Consider yourselves told.


Shop for recommended sleep trackers on Amazon

Withings Aura
Withings Aura
$285.07
Beddit
Beddit
$149.99
Misfit Shine 2
Misfit Shine 2
$99.99

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1 Comment

  • FDS says:

    You didn't test the Beddit? I wonder where it would stand on the list.

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